Manteca Fire — to retain its current staffing level when the fifth fire station opens in mid-2020 — will need to hire two additional firefighters.
That is on top of the need to fund the salaries of four existing firefighters currently paid from the dwindling Public Safety Endowment Fund set up with one-time $5,000 per home fees paid by Del Webb at Woodbridge developers and Atherton Homes’ Union Ranch that will deplete that account as earlier as mid-2021.
That means the general fund within 1½ to 2½ years will have to absorb roughly $750,00 annually for six firefighting positions to cover salary, benefits, and overtime.
That doesn’t count the need to buy a fire engine for the station being built at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue. A fully equipped fire engine costs in excess of $500,000.
Those are just some of the challenges facing the Manteca City Council when it comes to fire department funding as outline at Tuesday’s special council meeting.
There is funding in municipal capital improvement accounts for a fire engine. Unfortunately that originally was set aside with the intent to replace one of two aging fire engines that are in front-line service that are nearing the point that they need to be replaced. The average age of the fire department engine fleet is 15 years with average miles on each engine of 90,000 miles.
Compounding the situation is Manteca’s stepped use of the aerial platform or 100-foot ladder truck. During the recession when they city could not afford to replace a front-line engine as they should have, they started using the aerial truck as a front-line engine and stationed it on Powers Avenue closest to the structures most likely to need it in nearby Spreckels Park. Now that mega-distribution centers are going up along the Airport Way corridor and Great Wolf Lodge is building, the aerial truck eventually needs to migrate back to the Union Road station so it can be at the rough mid-point of all the structures that may need it should an incident occur.
The use of the 100-foot fire engine has stepped up mileage on the truck that when it was delivered 10 years ago cost the city just under $1 million.
Other large cost items the fire department is facing is the need to update station alerting and radio infrastructure that is 20 to 30 years old and not compatible with dispatch technology. Also two of the existing fire stations are not up to code given they are more than 30 years old.
Manteca Fire was fully staffed in 2018 for the first time since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. The city now has five sworn chief officers, 43 sworn firefighters, 2 civilian fire inspectors. and 1.5 administrative staff positions. That is in addition to 19 reserve firefighters, 15 Senior Aiding Fire Effort (SAFE) volunteers, and 41 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers.
The department handled 7,700 calls in 2018, up from 7,579 in 2017 and 6,737 in 2016.
Sixty percent of all calls in 2017 were medical related. Fires accounted for 5 percent, public assist 28 percent, false alarms 5 percent and hazardous materials 2 percent.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com